Comcast Corp. isn't surrendering its regional sports network to DirecTV and Dish Network without a fight.
A day after the Federal Communications Commission closed the "terrestrial loophole" that keeps Comcast SportsNet off satellite TV, company executive David L. Cohen said Comcast would challenge the FCC action in an administrative process at the federal agency.
DirecTV and Dish Network still must show that Comcast's exclusive right to the Phillies, Sixers, and Flyers through Comcast SportsNet has hurt them competitively, which Cohen says is not a slam dunk. He spoke on WIP-AM (610) sports radio.
Comcast also will tie the issue to DirecTV's Sunday Ticket package of out-of-market football games, Cohen said on the radio.
Cohen said the federal agency should look at DirecTV's deal with the National Football League, which he called "the most valuable exclusive in sports today."
DirecTV spokesman Robert Mercer said the comparison was misleading because "out-of-market games are not the same as home-team games," which he said were critical for local subscribers.
Given the potential for legal action, the FCC decision on the loophole could be "a full-employment act for lawyers," quipped Cohen, an executive vice president and lawyer.
The FCC said Wednesday that a satellite provider could file a complaint with the federal agency to show it has been hurt by Comcast's withholding Sixers, Flyers, and Phillies games. After a successful review, the federal agency could force Comcast to reach a carriage deal for Comcast SportsNet.
Comcast has said for years that because it distributes Comcast SportsNet on land-based, or terrestrial, telecom wires, it does not have to upload the games to a satellite.
One Wall Street analyst estimated Wednesday that the exclusive rights to Comcast SportsNet boosts Comcast's subscriber base by 450,000 customers in the Philadelphia region. Those are the people who would order satellite TV with Comcast SportsNet.
Comcast claims the data on a competitive disadvantage for satellite companies are not so convincing.
In an FCC filing Jan. 13, Comcast noted that satellite-TV penetration in the Philadelphia market rose to 14.4 percent of homes in 2009 from 3.9 percent in 2002 without the satellite companies' offering Comcast SportsNet.
In addition, Comcast said satellite-TV penetration in the Philadelphia area was roughly the same as in some other big-city markets where satellite companies offer regional sports networks.
Satellite penetration in 2009 was 12.9 percent in New York, 14.6 percent in Boston, and 16.5 percent in Baltimore.
Mercer said many factors led to satellite-TV penetration in a metropolitan area.